My approach to movie-watching--in case you hadn't noticed--is fairly haphazard. I have a rough list of Stuff That's Relevant to the Tenebrous Interests, and when a particular film seems to fit that bill, I snap it up for future watching. It's a damn good thing that I have reliable friends who've got my best interests in mind who tend to say things like: "Hey doofus--I know you've been digging these Paul Naschy flicks, so why don't you go ahead and check out his first film which also happened to be a staple of such monster kid klassic teevee shows as Chiller Theatre?" If this incredi-pal happens to be the Abominable Dr. Gregg, he goes ahead and ships me a DVD of "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror" in order to educate and illuminate me (that Abominable Dr. Gregg is some kind of all right, isn't he?).
It's easy to see why "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror" was a drive-in hit in America--though it came late in the second flowering of the monster movie, there were dozens of creature features playing on screens across the country, involving everything from the giant rabbits of "Night of the Lepus" to the urban vampire shocker "Blacula." Capitalizing on the horror craze and short exactly one Frankenstein movie, film distributor Sam Sherman snapped up the rights to Paul Naschy's first film (made and originally released in 1968), "La Marca del Hombre Lobo," slapped a little prologue explaining the title onto the preexisting movie, and voila! A monster mash was born.
Much like me, audiences in 1972 got over their initial dismay at the marked lack of reanimated cadavers in the story because--quite frankly--"Frankenstein's Bloody Terror" has everything BUT the kitchen sink in it (if the kitchen sink was a resurrection-obsessed mad scientist). Set in typical-yet-EXCELLENT (some things bear repeating, after all) Naschy style somewhere in a dark-forested, superstition-haunted, dirndl-outfitted Mittel European country, the film tells the tale of Polish nobleman Waldemar Daninsky who falls in love with an eighteen-year-old countess, gets werewolfized, and ultimately has to save his woodland community from his own full-moon-inspired rampages. Oh yeah--and there's a masked ball, some Satanism, a couple of gypsies, several forays into graverobbing and a sinister vampire couple.
Still no mad science--but you don't really miss it, do you?
There's so much to love about Naschy movies--the star's overwhelming sense of his own awesomeness, the stable of exotic babeage, the creaky gothic horror settings, and most importantly THE MONSTERS! Much as I'm open-minded towards contemporary reimaginings of the medieval creep brigade of vampires, shape-shifters, and various undead baddies, I have a special love for classic monsters, much in the same way that you never forget Your First. Naschy's reverence for the Universal thrillers is evident, and while the effects work may be a little hokey and the plot propulsion may not be terribly sophisticated, it's clear that Naschy wants his audience to have as much fun watching his performance as he had creating the story. He's making latter-day fairy tales in the most unapologetic way possible and his enthusiasm saturates every frame. Even when the movie gets a little (or a LOT) silly, there's never the feeling that Naschy believes his *audience* is stupid--they're co-conspirators in his monster glee!
The potential down-side to Naschy's appetite for old school horror cliches is that... well... let's calls 'em like we sees 'em: his werewolf movies are pretty much the same story told over and over again with small tweaks. So let's discuss the tweaks that make "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror" so eminently watchable, OK?
1) A ludicrous love triangle. In tried-and-true storybook style, Daninsky (quite literally) waltzes into Janice's life during a masquerade party and the teenager is instantly smitten, casting aside her significantly-less-barrel-chested boyfriend, Rudolph. Later in the film, when Daninsky saves Rudolph's life during a werewolf attack (and is fatefully bitten by the beast in the process), Rudolph seems to topple head-over-heels for the darkly brooding muscle-count himself, taking on a manservant role and trying to protect Daninsky from harm. This Daninsky-worship would carry throughout Naschy's films, with the werewolf-slash-nobleman's milkshake bringing persons of both genders flocking to the yard time and again.
2) Kickass sophisticated vampires. I like vampires--but I specifically like monster vampires and Draculas. Dr. Janos Mikhelov and his boobalicious wife Wandessa (remember that name, Naschyfans!) are prime examples of this latter flavor of bloodsucker. Improving on the already-excellent "bleh bleh" cape-wearing cartoon we all know and love, Dr. Mikhelov and Wandessa are black magicians who are seeking to harness Daninsky's curse for their own nefarious needs! Let me take a moment to salute the cheekbones of actor Julián Ugarte, who plays Dr. Mikhelov. I kinda wish he was in every movie--remember how much he en-rad-ened the boringer-than-it-ought've-been Italo-thriller "All the Colors of the Dark" with his presence as the taloned cult leader? Take a good gander at that photo above, interpals--that's gonna be me and Baron XIII in 10 years (although the Baron might have to stand on a box to be that tall).
3) Cleavage. What this movie lacks in nipples, it makes up for in creamy, quivering inter-bosom chasms. Just when I thought the movie had hit a sad note with the inevitable-yet-still-untimely demise of the barefoot gypsy girl, it gave me Wandessa in her startlingly structured gowns.
4) Monster fights. Man vs. werewolf, werewolf vs. werewolf, and ultimately vampire vs. werewolf. When presented with two new action figures, the first thing a little boy will do is make those plastic bastards fight. It is with the same youthful joy that Naschy presents us with several such grapple-matches between supernatural fighters.
For the kind of megadose of Vitamin M(onster) that the Halloween-season-loving kid in all of us craves, "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror" truly delivers the goods.